'Free State' author speaks at USM Forum

'Free State' author speaks at USM Forum

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The author of a book that helped inspire a major Hollywood movie spoke at the University of Southern Mississippi Tuesday night.

Victoria Bynum, author of "Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War," spoke at the Fall University Forum at Bennett Auditorium.

The film, "Free State of Jones," starring Matthew McConaughey, was based, in part, on her book.

It was released in June.

Both the book and movie tell the story of Newt Knight, a Jones County Confederate deserter, who leads a rebellion against the Confederacy.

Bynum's speech was titled, "Free State of Jones: History and Memory." It compared versions of the story from folklore, history and cinema.

She said she was pleased with the film.

"I think Matthew McConaughey is a great Newt Knight, but I also congratulate (director) Gary Ross on getting that historical context," she said. "I mean, he really did a lot of hard work and a really good job putting that in accurate historical context, even though the story itself, by his own admission, is fictionalized in places."

Bynum's father was from Jones County and she had relatives that fought with Newt Knight and for the Confederacy.

"My biggest hope is that this will really get people hitting the books and really learning more about the South during the Civil War, because there are many of these anti-secession communities, inner civil wars as historians often refer to them."

Bynum is a professor of history at Texas State University.